Gaza City massacre: Israel guns down starving Palestinians begging for food
A man with a bullet wound to his leg is seen laying on the ground in Gaza City's Nablsi Square as rescuers try to help him. Israeli soldiers massacred over 100 starving Palestinians who were desperately trying to obtain food at a distribution point Thursday morning. | Via X

Israeli troops repeatedly opened fire on starving Palestinians in Gaza City Thursday morning, killing more than 100 people, according to early reports. Those shot down by IDF bullets were desperately struggling to obtain food from one of the rare aid trucks allowed through the border by Israel.

Kamel Abu Nahel spoke to the Associated Press Thursday from Shifa Hospital, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound. He said hundreds of people had gone to the food distribution point in the middle of the night after hearing rumors there might be a delivery arriving.

Israeli troops near the distribution point suddenly opened fire on the crowd, according to Nahel, sending people running for their lives. Many hid under cars. When the firing stopped, they approached the food trucks again.

With the population of Gaza being literally starved to death—especially the children of the territory—the people at the distribution point had no choice but to try again to reach the distribution point.

“We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” Nahel said.

Hunger stalks the land: Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb. 23, 2024. An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians displaced by the war took refuge in Rafah, which is likely Israel’s next target. | Fatima Shbair / AP

Again, Israeli soldiers let loose with machine gun fire. That’s when Nahel felt a bullet pierce his leg. He tumbled to the ground, unable to walk. A truck then ran over his leg as it was speeding away.

Video footage circulating online from Al Jazeera showed mass casualties at Nablsi Square in Gaza City.

Another injured man who spoke to AP, Ahmad, was shot in the arm and the leg. He said he laid on the ground among the dead for two hours until someone with a horse-pulled cart rescued him and took him to the hospital.

His situation wasn’t unique; there are not enough ambulances to collect the dead and wounded from the scene. Medics found “dozens or hundreds” of bodies lying on the ground when they arrived, according to Kamal Adwan Hospital official Fares Afana.

The casualty count from the massacre of hungry Gazans sent the total Palestinian death toll from the war soaring to 30,035—the vast majority of those being women and children. At least another 70,457 have been wounded or left disabled.

Blaming the dead

Israeli government officials are giving conflicting versions of what they claim happened in Gaza City Thursday; the common element in their varying accounts is that the dead Palestinians are responsible for their own deaths.

Spokesperson Avi Hyman said the deaths were caused by the food truck drivers. “At some point the trucks were overwhelmed and the people driving the trucks, which were Gazan civilian drivers,” he emphasized, “plowed in the crowds…ultimately killing…tens of people.”

That version of the story was completely refuted by another Israeli government figure, however, who anonymously acknowledged the army had indeed gunned down people searching for food. Again, though, the deceased were held liable for their own murders.

A military correspondent for an Israeli broadcaster wrote on Twitter (X) that the army claims Gazans “attacked” the food trucks and then “approached the IDF force and a tank.” Soldiers responded by firing into the air, and when the “mob” supposedly refused to stop advancing on the troops, they shot into the crowd, causing “a few casualties.”

The IDF is circulating a video online in which it describes the hungry people desperately seeking something to eat as a “mob looting aid trucks.” The commentary provided repeats the line that “Gazans attacked the aid trucks which caused the crowding and the death of dozens.”

Shot from the air using night vision, the film shows people swarming the trucks in the food convoy but provides no proof of any “attack” on the trucks.

The video is also clearly edited, with an obvious skip in the middle of the footage. Crowds are seen gathered around the trucks, and then, immediately after a video cut, the ground is instantly littered with bodies. The moments when all the dead were killed is missing entirely.

Starving Gaza to death

The food trucks at the center of Thursday’s incident were among the first few to arrive in northern Gaza in over a month. Gaza City and the areas surrounding it were early targets in Israel’s air, sea, and ground invasion after Oct. 7. Buildings and infrastructure have been almost totally destroyed, and people in the area are largely cut off from the rest of Gaza.

The same situation is repeating everywhere, though. When the war started in October, Israel shut down all deliveries of food, water, medicine, and food into Gaza, inaugurating the forced starvation of the territory’s 2.3 million residents. Before Oct. 7, over 500 aid trucks a day kept Gaza alive; currently, an average of 57 trucks are entering the territory daily.

Hunger is stalking the entirety of the Gaza Strip, and malnutrition is stealing the lives of more children every day. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, said on Tuesday that Israel is purposely starving Palestinians.

“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime. Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian,” Fakhri said.

“In my view as a U.N. human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the state of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable—not just individuals or this government or that person.

“The speed of malnourishment of young children is also astounding,” Fakhri, who is also a law professor at the University of Oregon, said. “The bombing and people being killed directly is brutal, but this starvation—and the wasting and stunting of children—is torturous and vile. It will have a long-term impact on the population physically, cognitively, and morally … All things indicate that this has been intentional.”

Expanding war

One Israeli soldier smiles as another switches on a lighter as he prepares to set fire to a food shipment in Gaza City recently. They were filming themselves burning food supplies in a place where people are starving to death. ‘We turn on the light against this dark place and burn it until there is no trace of this whole place,’ one says as the other fuels the flame. | Via X

The massacre at Gaza City has likely sunk any hope for a temporary ceasefire, with a statement from Hamas saying it may end hostage negotiations. The militant group declared Thursday that it would not bargain “at the expense of the blood of our people.”

President Joe Biden, who has been peddling the story that a ceasefire was likely by next week, acknowledged it will “probably not” happen.

“Hope springs eternal,” Biden said midday Thursday. “I was on the telephone with people in the region…. Probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful.” He said he didn’t know the details of what happened in Gaza City

While the genocide of Gazans proceeds at full speed, Israel is expanding the war even further. The Netanyahu War Cabinet has finalized plans for a final assault on Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city on the Egyptian border, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians have fled.

In the occupied West Bank, another 650 acres of Palestinian land were officially stolen on Thursday. The Israeli Defense Ministry annexed the tracts, and a government source said they would be handed over to the town of Maale Adumim, an illegal Jewish settlement east of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli bombs fell on the Lebanese-Syrian border overnight, and reports circulated that Biden administration officials are anxious that a full-scale Israeli attack on Lebanon may come by late spring or early summer.

Though Biden has done nothing substantive to restrain his Israeli ally from destroying Gaza and its residents, a further expansion of the war could prove politically disastrous for his re-election efforts.

On Tuesday, over 101,000 voters in the Michigan Democratic Primary voted “Uncommitted” rather than cast ballots for him. Upset over his support for and complicity in the genocide in Gaza, many Americans are expressing their protest in the voting booth as well as in the streets. The 50,000-strong Washington State chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union on Thursday encouraged its members to also vote “Uncommitted” in the state’s primary in March.

A new poll released Wednesday showed, again, that the war is a huge vulnerability for Biden. Nearly 60% of Democratic voters in a Reuters/Ipsos survey said they are not likely to support a candidate for president who wants to send more weapons to Israel. Biden and Trump were tied at 36% each in a hypothetical matchup.

A separate poll by Data for Progress showed that 67% of Americans overall favor a permanent ceasefire. Among Democrats, the number was 77%, Independents 69%, and even 56% of Republican voters favor ceasefire.

After the massacre of starving Palestinians in Gaza City Thursday, the pressure on American leaders to cut off weapons shipments and push Israel for a ceasefire will certainly grow stronger.

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C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.